T. N. Srinivasan 101: A Renowned Economist of India's Reforms
Zatrun Published at July 12, 2023

T. N. Srinivasan, in full Thirukodikaval Nilakanta Srinivasan, was an Indian economist who had taught and worked in the United States of America. He was the Emeritus Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics at Yale University and a Distinguished Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology. He passed away on November 11, 2018 at the age of 85.

Srinivasan had made important contributions in the fields of economic growth and development economics, international trade, agricultural economics, law and economics, and microeconomic theory. He had also been very active in policy debates concerning India and was a leading intellectual force behind India’s economic liberalization. If you are interested in learning more about him, check out the subtitles in this article.

T. N. Srinivasan

Who is T. N. Srinivasan?

T. N. Srinivasan was born on March 27, 1933 in Tirupati, a town in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. He completed his B.A. (Honors) and M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Madras in 1953 and 1954 respectively. He then underwent a two-year professional training in statistics at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Calcutta, where he was influenced by eminent statisticians like P.C. Mahalanobis and C.R. Rao.

In 1955, he received a scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. in Economics at Yale University under the supervision of Tjalling Koopmans, a Nobel laureate in economics. He completed his Ph.D. in 1962 with a thesis on investment criteria and choice of techniques of production.

After completing his Ph.D., T. N. Srinivasan joined ISI as a professor and later became a research professor. He also taught at various universities in the US, including MIT, Stanford University, Princeton University, and Harvard University. He joined Yale University as a professor of economics in 1976 and became the chairman of the department of economics in 1980. He retired from Yale in 2002 but continued to be associated with it as an emeritus professor.

His Academic Contributions

T. N. Srinivasan’s research spanned a wide range of topics in economics, covering both theoretical and empirical aspects. He published extensively in leading journals and co-authored or co-edited several books with eminent economists like Jagdish Bhagwati, Hollis Chenery, P.K. Bardhan, Suresh Tendulkar, Herbert Scarf, Timothy Kehoe, John Whalley, Jessica Seddon Wallack, N.Hope, A.Kochar and R.Noll. Some of his notable contributions include:

  • Developing the theory of shadow prices and social cost-benefit analysis for project evaluation in developing countries.
  • Analysing the effects of trade policies on income distribution, growth, and welfare in developing countries.
  • Studying the determinants and consequences of technological change and innovation in agriculture.
  • Exploring the interactions between law and economics, especially in the context of intellectual property rights and contract enforcement.
  • Examining the role of institutions and governance in economic development.
  • Advocating for market-oriented reforms and global integration for India’s economic transformation.

Policy Engagement and Recognition

T. N. Srinivasan was not only a distinguished scholar but also a influential policy adviser and commentator. He served as a special adviser to the Development Research Center at the World Bank from 1977 to 1980. He was also a member or chairman of several committees and commissions appointed by the Government of India to advise on various aspects of economic policy.

He was a vocal critic of India’s inward-looking and interventionist policies that prevailed until the early 1990s. He argued that these policies stifled competition, innovation, and efficiency and resulted in low growth, high inflation, fiscal deficits, balance of payments crises, and widespread poverty. He advocated for a radical shift to market-oriented reforms that would unleash India’s potential and enable it to catch up with the rest of the world.

T. N. Srinivasan was also a strong proponent of India’s integration with the global economy through trade liberalization and multilateral cooperation. He opposed protectionism and unilateralism that he saw as detrimental to both India’s interests and global welfare. He emphasized the need for fair and equitable rules.

Awards and Honours

T. N. Srinivasan received many awards and honours for his outstanding contributions to economics and public policy. He was a fellow of the Econometric Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He was also a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the US.

He was named Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association in 2003, the highest honor bestowed by the association. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of the Government of India, in 2007 for his contributions to literature and education.

T. N. Srinivasan was also honoured with several honorary degrees and lectureships from various universities and institutions around the world. He delivered the Mahalanobis Memorial Lectures in 1972, the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lectures in 1988, the Brahmananda Memorial Lectures in 1991, and the Raja Chelliah Memorial Lectures in 2010, among others.

Legacy and Impact

T. N. Srinivasan was a towering figure in the field of economics and a powerful voice for economic reform in India. He inspired and mentored many generations of economists who have made significant contributions to academia and policy. He also enriched the public discourse on economic issues with his sharp insights and clear arguments.

His legacy and impact will continue to be felt for years to come as India strives to achieve its economic potential and aspirations. He will be remembered as a brilliant economist, a visionary thinker, a passionate reformer, and a generous teacher.

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